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Friday, 6 November, 1998, 12:15 GMT
Is science moving too fast?
Is science moving too fast?
There seems to be a revolutionary scientific breakthrough every week, bringing us humans ever nearer to eternal disease-free lives.

This weeks' life changer is the ability to cultivate human cells that could be used to grow from scratch anything from heart muscle to brain tissue.

It is thought that this discovery will revolutionise many aspects of transplantation medicine, including Parkinson's disease, which occurs because of defects in one of just a few cell types. Scientists also believe the cultured cells will give pharmaceutical companies new ways to test the effectiveness and safety of drugs.

But the human embryonic stem cells were isolated and cultured from embryos leftover from an infertility treatment programme. One of the other scientific groups involved used aborted foetal tissue.

Do you think it is wise for science to take over from nature? Can you keep up with the accelerated pace of scientific breakthroughs? Where will it end?

Professor John Gearhart thinks these unique human cells have enormous potential.

"These cells will rapidly let us study human processes in a way we couldn't before. Instead of having to rely on mice or other substitutes for human tissues, we'll have a unique resource that we can start applying to medicine," he said.

But it raises fundamental ethical concerns. Professor Jack Scarisbrick, from the pressure group LIFE, which campaigns against abortion, says the use of fertilised eggs is wrong.

"I believe that we should never use human beings in destructive experimentation, we should never treat them as laboratory fodder," he said.

However the British Medical Association have no ethical worries, as long as the donor of the fertilised egg has given their consent.

So is it all getting out of hand?

What do you think?

Is science moving too fast?

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12 Nov 98 | Talking Point
Is science moving too fast? Your reaction

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